June 17, 2021

Updates from our Executive Director

Dear community,

Starting up this new organization has been an incredible journey, and I’m eager to keep sharing our progress every step of the way. In this spirit, I have a number of important updates for you:

  1. Our name has evolved! Meet The Just Trust. When we soft launched earlier this year, we knew that as we listened to partners across the criminal justice reform movement, sharpened our theory of change, and started putting a strategy on paper, a name evolution was possible. The Just Trust holds so much meaning for me. It’s about community, relationships, building bridges, and driving momentum. It’s about interrogating what it means for something to be “just,” and making space to convene brilliant people across the movement to not only answer that question together but to win together.
  2. Our team is growing. We have two new open positions—a Brand & Communications Lead and a Program Lead who will focus on grantmaking. If you’re interested, we want to hear from you! Learn more and apply.
  3. Update on our 501(c)(3) arm. The Just Trust is now a fiscally sponsored project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable entity. As a brand new organization, our goal is to get to work as quickly as possible, and so we made the decision to have a fiscal sponsor in order to access essential operations and infrastructure support—from grant administration, to IT and HR. In doing this, we can start moving resources into the field much, much faster. And while there are many good fiscal sponsors out there, we selected the New Venture Fund specifically for their operational excellence, best-in-class project support, and proven track record across a variety of issues.
  4. Update on our 501(c)(4) arm. We believe deeply that lasting criminal justice reform requires both culture change and policy change, working in concert. This means advocates across the country must have the resources to directly educate and engage decision makers—elected and appointed officials and voters—on an issue we know has support across the political spectrum. The transformation we seek in the criminal justice system requires giving movement leaders the unfettered ability to engage in robust advocacy, which requires robust (c)(4) resources—it’s that simple.We also know that this space has historically had a dearth of (c)(4) resources, which has held back significant progress on these issues, resulting in grave human cost. We have a unique opportunity to stand up a fully independent, nonpartisan (c)(4) funding vehicle that is and will always be 100% dedicated to criminal justice reform. The Just Trust for Action is a place where many different funders and changemakers—all dedicated to a common goal—can work together to fill critical gaps in the field and make bold bets on policy change.
  5. We have a Board of Directors (actually, we have two). The Just Trust is governed by two separate boards: an advisory board for the fiscally sponsored 501(c)(3) arm, and a separate governing board responsible for the independent 501(c)(4) organization. Together, these boards bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the organization—including deep knowledge of criminal justice reform, philanthropy, nonprofit management, and movement building, and an unwavering commitment to bipartisan policy work. Meet our new board members!
  6. Strategy process update. As part of our ongoing strategy development, we’re now in the middle of a four-month-long stakeholder engagement project, which is proving critical to helping us build the foundation of this organization. We’re talking to people across the movement, including formerly incarcerated leaders, policy experts and nonprofits, other funders, and more. It’s critical that we bring together diverse perspectives from day one to help guide our work, especially those with lived experience. We’re doing this because the tent of leaders advocating for systems change is BIG, and while we may not agree on everything—and may be opponents on some things—we are all connected by a belief in people and a keen understanding that our current system isn’t, in fact, all that just. It’s critical that we learn from everyone—if we’re going to be for the movement, we have to be by the movement.
  7. Grants. Last, but certainly not least, our goal is to begin grantmaking in early 2022, once we are fully operational and staffed. Until that time, we will not be able to take on funding requests, but please do stay tuned and keep following our newsletter so that when funding opens up, you’ll be the first to know.

Thank you for all the work you do to make criminal justice reform a priority now and into the future. We all have a role to play in reforming and ultimately transforming the criminal justice system—storytellers, media, funders, organizers and advocates, directly impacted leaders, elected officials, business leaders, public servants, and other key players. My life’s work is dedicated to strengthening this ecosystem, and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get moving with each and every one of you.

Thank you,

Ana Zamora [signature]

Ana Zamora